Tag Archives: Slipknot

Don’t Blame Heavy Metal For Alleged Baltimore Shooter Bobby Gladden

I have a new piece up at SF Weekly’s All Shook Down blog today: Don’t Blame Heavy Metal For Alleged Baltimore Shooter Bobby Gladden.

Top 5 Backward Messages of 2011

I started Backward Messages a year ago, and since then we’ve seen plenty of lively news and discussion. Here are the stories that got the most clicks in our first year of debunking:

1. “Demonic drawing,” Slipknot album linked to grandparents’ murder: Kyle Smith, 17, was arrested in April for allegedly killing his grandparents and then setting their house on fire to cover it up. Police mentioned a “demonic drawing” found in Smith’s bedroom, along with what was most likely a Slipknot CD, as if those had anything to do with the crime. A few months later, Smith pleaded guilty and admitted he was being treated for mental illness.

2. Investigative reporters uncover sex-crazed werewolf roommates in Milwaukee … or not: People couldn’t get enough of the story of two young Milwaukee women, Rebecca Chandler and Raven “Scarlett” Larrabee, who invited an Arizona man to their apartment for some kind of consensual event. All parties involved admitted it “got out of hand.” The man was cut more than 300 times, escaped, then called the police, who made like a trio of books found in the girls’ apartment might be related: “The Werewolf’s Guide to Life,” “The Necromantic Ritual Book,” and a black folder called “Intro to Sigilborne Spirits.” Comments on that post from folks who knew the girls suggest that they had much deeper issues, unrelated to their reading habits.

3. Heavy-metal fan wins disability benefits for his “addiction” to music: Roger Tullgren managed to convince the Swedish government that his love of heavy metal interferes with his day-to-day functioning and qualifies as a disability. Not many of you agreed with this one, but I still think it says a lot about how extremely passionate some folks are about metal — and that’s worth taking seriously.

4. If you dress goth, are you asking for trouble? After Melody McDermott and a friend were beaten on a tram outside Manchester, many recalled the death of fellow goth Sophie Lancaster under similar circumstances. Goths are frequently the targets of harassment and violence; is it up to them to change it?

5. Do video games change kids’ behavior? In the spring, Empowering Parents published a poll in which they asked parents whether games “affect their child’s behavior.” Sixty-two percent said yes, despite ample evidence — which we’ve looked at throughout 2011 — that games themselves aren’t the real problem. If the group does another poll in 2012, following the Supreme Court’s decision not to ban the sale of M-rated games to minors, I wonder if the results would be much different.

If you’re curious what search terms brought people to this blog, here are some of the top queries:

* intro to sigilborne spirits
* satanism
* larping
* history of violent video games
* wicca
* daniel ruda
* jacob leblanc oklahoma
* phil chalmers

Happy New Year! I’ll have plenty more Backward Messages for you in 2012.

“Demonic” teen pleads guilty to grandparents’ murder


Kyle Smith is serving life plus 10 years for the murder of his grandparents. Two friends are on 10 years’ probation for helping him set fire to their house.

Of all the posts on Backward Messages, by far the most popular is the one about Oklahoma’s Kyle Smith: “Demonic drawing,” Slipknot album linked to grandparents’ murder. Much has happened since then, so I wanted to provide a brief update.

In August, Smith pleaded guilty to charges that he murdered his grandparents, David and Rose Garrick, before setting their house on fire to destroy the evidence. Did he claim that the “demonic drawing,” or the Slipknot album, had anything to do with his actions?

He didn’t.

During his hearing, he told the court that he has been on medication for bipolar disorder since he was jailed for the crimes. At last word, he was being evaluated for mental health placement.

To be fair, the vast majority of people with bipolar disorder are not violent and do not kill people. It’s tough to say whether Smith’s illness contributed to his crimes. But that’s more likely to be a factor than his taste in music or his doodling — particularly if he was severely ill and unmedicated.

Earlier this month, two of Smith’s friends, Dustin Martin and Jacob LeBlanc, were sentenced to 10 years probation for helping Smith set fire to his grandparents’ house.

If you’re a friend of Smith’s, Martin’s or LeBlanc’s, please comment and let us know how you — and they — are doing.

If you’re close with a bipolar teen, can you provide any tips on helping these kids cope with their illness in a healthy, positive way?

“Demonic drawing,” Slipknot album linked to grandparents’ murder


Kyle Smith, 17, is accused of killing his grandparents and setting their house on fire in Midwest City, Oklahoma.

Kyle Smith, a 17-year-old from Midwest City, Oklahoma, is behind bars after being arrested for allegedly murdering his grandparents, David and Rose Garrick, and then setting their house on fire March 23. Two of Smith’s friends, 18-year-old Dustin Martin and 17-year-old Jacob LeBlanc, are also in jail for allegedly helping cover up the crime, but much of the media focus has rested on Smith and the “evidence” found in the home he shared with his grandparents.

Among that evidence, according to Oklahoma’s News 9 broadcast, is a “demonic drawing,” hinted at in this video. Out of context, a “demonic drawing” means almost nothing: Was it a pentagram (as the broadcast suggests) or something else? (Not all pentagrams are “demonic.”) If so, how do we know which way it was pointing? Do we know if it was Smith’s? Did it have any other writing on it? Was it clear it had anything to do with the occult, or was it inspired by an album cover or other piece of art? Did Smith draw it? Was it hidden away, or was it scribbled on a school-book cover? And what does this have to do with the crimes he allegedly committed?

The newscaster in the video actually gets a few things right, probably more by dint of the fact that she had to produce something about this supposed “demonic drawing,” but didn’t have any information on the drawing itself: she went to someone who knew more than she did about occult symbols and instead had him talk about what it means if a teen has one of these in his/her bedroom. This someone is private investigator Robert Smart, who says he’s had “training on how to read these kinds of drawings.” (Hope his training isn’t from Don Rimer.) His descriptions of the various symbols is less than illuminating, but his encouragement that parents should talk to their kids about these things is spot-on.

Unfortunately, all this is hinged on Smith’s crime, creating the impression that the described “demonic symbol” had anything to do with the murders. (Though Smart does rightly point out that Satanists don’t generally commit murder.)

Another Oklahoma broadcaster, NewsChannel 4, doesn’t do much better:

Inside the walls of the burned home, investigators seized a demonic drawing, a heavy metal CD with a pentagram, along with a hatchet, a samurai sword, a dagger, knives and two gas cans.

… “A heavy metal CD with a pentagram.” That doesn’t really clarify things. Antimusic.dom dug deeper and learned that the album in question was by Slipknot, probably All Hope Is Gone, which features a nine-pointed star, or nonagram, not a pentagram. According to the band’s own Web site, each of the points on this nine-pointed star represents one of the members of the band. How is this relevant to the crime? How many other ways would the reporters like to get their facts wrong? The mind boggles.

So far, there’s been little on Smith’s actual mental state, or his relationship with his grandparents. Was he violent? Disturbed? Abused? Why was he living with his grandparents and not his parents? NewsChannel 4 does stick in one speculative line: “We don’t know why. There’s been questions about the psychological welfare of this 16-year-old suspect. That ‘s up to the experts, we have no idea,” said Chief Clabes. But that comes after this one, which has as little to do with the crimes as the “demonic drawing” or the Slipknot album:

“We’ve been told by residence [sic] in the area they’ve seen him dress in all black, Gothic. Well, we’ve been told they saw him in the backyard throwing daggers at the fence. We’ve been told he listens to heavy metal. That was his own admittance, that he does listen to heavy metal. Is that significant in this case? I don’t know. Does it mean anything in this case? I don’t know,” said Chief Clabes.

All of these comments trivialize the nature of this crime, whether Smith or someone else committed it. This was an awful, brutal homicide, likely committed either by someone in a deeply disturbed state or by someone pushed too far by trauma and circumstance. The fact that reporters continue to grasp at speculative straws — particularly when the suspect is a teenager, gets us no closer to understanding this crime — or any violent crime committed by a minor. And this is something we, as a society, both desperately want and desperately need to undersand.

What if your favorite music could send you to jail?


Heavy metal and Egypt, hand in hand.

Even though plenty of Americans see heavy metal music as immoral, dangerous, violent music, there are are limits to what can happen to its listeners in this country. When Tipper Gore was waving her “filthy fifteen” flag at bands like Mötley Crüe, W.A.S.P., and Venom, the worst would be that your parents might take your records away and break them or burn them.

Not so in Egypt. In 1997, police broke down the doors of some 70 homes and arrested the young men inside. Their crime? Being heavy metal fans. Some were released after two weeks. Others remained in jail in Cairo for a month and a half. The same happened in Morocco in 2003 — where 11 metalheads were acquitted and three were convicted of devil worship.

It was black T-shirts that seemed to cause the most offense. (“Normal people,” pronounced the judge in the case, “go to a concert in a shirt and tie.”)

Acrassicauda, the Iraqi band featured in Heavy Metal in Baghdad, was perhaps the only such band in that city — and ultimately fled, because their lives were in danger for playing and celebrating the music they loved.

It’s one thing to listen to this music in America, where doing so is an act of individualism, of rebellion. It’s another when you can be jailed or killed for it. Why would young men risk their lives just for a few heavy guitar riffs?

For Accrasicauda in Iraq, as it was for many in Egypt, metal is the only outlet available, and it becomes the only thing worth fighting for. These kids take serious personal risks in trying to put on shows, in identifying with anything “American”, in growing their hair.

“Heavy Metal in Baghdad” reminds us there are still real outsiders in the big wide world, and it is not an easy position to stake. The documentary depicts, among other things, Accrasicauda’s last Iraqi show in Baghdad’s Al Fanar Hotel – played to intermittent blackouts and the background accompaniment of gunfire – and how much the success of the show means to the participants. “If we cannot find some fun here,” asks one audience member, almost begging the camera, “then where?”

The devotion to metal in Muslim countries, where it is dangerous to listen or perform this music, can tell us something about why anyone, in any country, would do so. It’s more than just entertainment. Kids who listen to metal feel as though they’re part of a tribe, as though they’ve found kinship with music and musicians who understand how they truly feel inside. Taking the music away doesn’t kill those feelings. It makes them more painful.

Muslim countries aren’t the only place where rebellious music is suspect. In Uzbekistan, a state television documentary warned citizens that such music is “evil” and “Satanic.”

“This satanic music was created by evil forces to bring youth in Western countries to total moral degradation,” according to the documentary.

Thankfully, America left that sentiment behind (mostly) in the 1980s, though it still lingers in some parts of the country. It still brings doubt to parents’ minds when they see kids listening to, say, Slipknot or Dir En Grey.

However, this music doesn’t mean anything less to American fans than it does to Egyptian, Moroccan, Iraqi, or Uzbek fans. It’s a powerful outlet, one that many kids need. The fact that some fans are willing to endanger their lives for it only shows how important heavy metal is to all its listeners, in Cleveland and in Cairo.

What if your favorite music could send you to jail — or worse? Would you still listen to it?